The Plant

June 28, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

plant.jpgThe Plant by Stephen King

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I am a Constant Reader. When I was younger, I had a copy of the Stephen King Encyclopedia, and I tracked down as many of his errant stories as I could, including buying a copy of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so I could read “The Doctor’s Case”. (This was long before Nightmares & Dreamscapes was published.) For all that, I’m surprised that it took me until 2018 to finally read The Plant, especially when I was one of the financiers of King’s pay-what-you-want release of the story.

Reading it now, I can see why it remained unwritten for so long. It’s just not that great a story. True to King form, it involves writers and editors, all of whom are being terrorized by the author of a book they reject in the form of a plant. It feels a little weird, but it’s important to remember this was written around the time King wrote about a haunted car, a haunted bathroom, and an all-powerful word processor. King was writing whatever came to mind during that era.

There is a fifteen-year gap between the first part of the story and the second, and it’s pretty clear where that divide is, since King’s style is so different between the parts. It merges well, but King takes advantage of the gap to add a kind of prescience to the story that wouldn’t have existed had he written the whole thing in the time it’s set, which is the early 1980s. In the later portion of the story, he has a character come up with an idea that’s identical to “Survivor”, and treats it like it’s some ground-breaking idea. It rings false, and forced me out of the story. He does this more than once, too, and the more he included these references (including one to Carrie, though that was in the early portion), the more eye-rollingly annoyed I got.

He also includes another black character who talks like the most offensive charicature of the blackface era, much like Detta Walker, though without her crass obscenities. This character, Riddley, is smart, and aspires to be a writer himself, but he chooses to speak this way as a means to … something. I’m not entirely sure what his intentions are there, since his coworkers (the editors) don’t understand why he talks the way he does. It was odd, and I don’t feel like it ages well.

However, without Riddley, I wouldn’t have been able to discover that he’s from Blackwater, Alabama, and that his extended family is named McDowell. That bit made my day.

It’s hard to judge a book that’s incomplete, but I feel like we’re not missing anything by leaving this story unfinished. It’s familiar territory for any Constant Reader, in character and plot, and they might find themselves annoyed at how this epistolary novel takes a long, third-person omniscient tangent in the later part of the story. I will say I’m glad this story has been available in an affordable format, since when I first discovered its existence, the only available copies were from Philtrum Press. I’d recommend the story only to the most constant of Constant Readers.

Started: May 3, 2018
Finished: May 18, 2018

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